Tuesday Reads: Bad News and Bad Hair

Bad News, by Ethan Jack Harrington

Good Morning!!

Sorry for the possibly disturbing image–there was just something I liked about it. Anyway, it’s Tuesday, and two formerly great nations–the USA and Great Britain–are now led by doltish leaders with embarrassingly bad hair. Welcome to the 21st Century.

The Guardian: Boris Johnson elected new Tory leader.

Boris Johnson will become Britain’s next prime minister after winning a convincing victory over Jeremy Hunt in the Conservative party leadership race.

The former mayor of London, who has long cherished an ambition to lead his country, won 66% of the votes – 92,153, to Hunt’s 46,656. Turnout was 87.4% among 159,320 party members.

In a characteristically lighthearted acceptance speech, Johnson conceded that even some of his own supporters may “wonder quite what they have done”….

He reminded his audience of ministers and party staff of his campaign mantra: “Deliver Brexit, unite the country and defeat Jeremy Corbyn.”

Saying “some wag” had pointed out that this spelled “dud”, he joked that the final e – “E for energise” – had been left out. “I say to all the doubters: dude, we are going to energise the country!”

And Johnson said he would “get Brexit done by 31 October” with a “new spirit of can-do”.

“We are once again going to believe in ourselves and what we can achieve, and like some slumbering giant we are going to rise and ping off the guy-ropes of self-doubt and negativity.”

Remember Cesar Sayoc? He’s the rabid Trump fan who sent mail bombs to people Trump attacked publicly on Twitter or elsewhere. Sayoc is on trial right now.

Ryan J. Reilly at HuffPost: Lawyers For Trump ‘Super Fan’ Cesar Sayoc Say Trump’s Rhetoric Inspired Terrorist Plot On Democrats.

Cesar Sayoc, the fanatical Donald Trump fan who mailed package bombs to the president’s political opponents, is a cognitively limited sexual abuse survivor who thought of the now-president as a “surrogate father” and came to believe in an “alternative reality” fueled in part by Trump’s attacks on his political opponents, his attorneys told a federal court on Monday.

Sayoc has admitted to mailing pipe bombs to Democratic politicians, media figures and celebrities he perceived as Trump’s enemies last fall, and pleaded guilty to several federal crimes in March. He could face life in prison when he’s sentenced on August 5, but his federal public defenders said Monday he should serve 10 years in prison followed by community supervision (as well as mental health counseling and drug treatment).

Cesar Sayoc’s van plastered with anti-Hillary and pro-Trump images

Sayoc, his attorneys wrote in a sentencing memo filed in federal court in New York on Monday, was a Trump “super fan” and “began to consider Democrats as not just dangerous in theory, but imminently and seriously dangerous to his personal safety.”

“President Trump did nothing to dissuade this message,” they write. Their filing cites Trump’s Twitter attacks on the figures Sayoc targeted.

Sayoc was a Trump fan before the reality television host ran for president, and viewed him as “everything he wanted to be: self-made, successful, and a ‘playboy,’” his attorneys wrote.

But Sayoc “began watching Fox News religiously,” started following political news on Facebook and and “threw himself into” Trump’s campaign once he announced his candidacy because he “came to view Trump as a personal champion—someone who had helped him through the most difficult periods of his life and who could do the same for other people across the country.”

Click on the link to read the rest.

The Trump administration is proposing a frightening new immigration policy.

The Washington Post: Trump administration to expand its power to deport undocumented immigrants.

The Trump administration on Tuesday will significantly expand its power to quickly deport undocumented immigrants who have illegally entered the United States within the past two years, using a fast-track deportation process that bypasses immigration judges.

Officials are calling the new strategy, which will take effect immediately, a “necessary response” to the influx of Central Americans and others at the southern border. It will allow immigration authorities to quickly remove immigrants from anywhere they encounter them across the United States, and they expect the approach will help alleviate the nation’s immigration-court backlog and free up space in Immigration and Customs Enforcement jails.

Trump HItler by Pegasus

The stated targets of the change are people who sneaked into the United States and do not have an asylum case or immigration-court date pending. Previously, the administration’s policy for “expedited removal” had been limited to migrants caught within 100 miles of the U.S. border who had been in the country for less than two weeks. The new rule would apply to immigrants anywhere in the United States who have been in the country for less than two years — adhering to a time limit included in the 1996 federal law that authorized the expedited process.

Immigrants apprehended in Iowa, Nebraska or other inland states would have to prove to immigration officials that they have been in the United States continuously for the past two years, or they could end up in an immigration jail facing quick deportation. And it could be relatively low-level immigration officers — not officers of a court — making the decisions.

What this means in reality is that anyone in the U.S. could be ordered by ICE/CBP to “show your papers.” From the article:

Immigrants’ advocates warned that the policy could ensnare longtime legal residents or even U.S. citizens who have been deported in error before. Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said she fears the rule will lead to increased racial profiling and turn ICE into a “show-me-your-papers militia.”

“This new directive flows directly from the racist rhetoric that the president has been using for the last week and indeed months, but this new rule is going to terrorize communities of color,” said Gupta, who was head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division under President Barack Obama.

U.S. citizens could be rapidly deported on the word of an ICE agent, without a court hearing. Read this story in The Dallas Morning News: A Dallas-born citizen picked up by the Border Patrol has been detained for three weeks.

An 18-year-old Dallas-born U.S. citizen has been in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement for more than three weeks, his attorney says.

Now his family fears he may be deported.

Bully Culprit, by Robbie Conal

Francisco Erwin Galicia was detained at a CBP checkpoint in Falfurrias on June 27, said Claudia Galan, his attorney.

Galicia was traveling with his 17-year-old brother Marlon Galicia and a group of friends from Edinburg where they live to Ranger College in North Texas for a soccer scouting event when they came upon a CBP checkpoint, said Sanjuana Galicia, his mother.

It was about 8 p.m. Marlon, who was born in Mexico and lacked legal status, had only been through a border checkpoint on school trips and had never been pressed to provide travel documents.

But this time was different, Marlon said. He had only a school ID. His brother was carrying only his Texas ID, which can only be obtained with a Social Security number.

“We were confident that we’d be able to pass. We were going to do something good for our futures,” he said. “I didn’t imagine this could happen and now I’m so sad that I’m not with my family,” Marlon said by phone from Reynosa, Mexico, where he is staying with his grandmother.

After two days in detention, Marlon signed a voluntary deportation form.

“I signed because I wanted to talk with my mom. Now, we just have to wait and see and hope that they release my brother,” Marlon said.

Francisco Galicia told his mother, who lives in Edinburg, that he was detained because he didn’t have his U.S. passport. But she said he did present CBP with his Texas ID.

Read more at the link.

And of course Trump’s brown shirts are already torturing children in his concentration camps. NBC News reports: Abner, 17, describes 11 days of hunger and thirst at Yuma’s border station.

Abner, a 17-year-old Guatemalan boy, vividly recalls the first 48 hours he spent inside the U.S. Border Patrol station in Yuma, Arizona. He was awake for all of them because there was no space to lie down.

James Ostrer, Emotion Download

Packed into a cell with other migrant boys, Abner said the older children would give the 8, 9, and 10-year-olds space to lie down on the floor while they would try to sleep sitting or standing up. With nothing to cover him, Abner would tremble.

“I had to stay almost two days like this, standing. I didn’t sleep. And they didn’t treat me well because I would ask for at least food or water or something to cover myself with and they would deny it,” Abner told NBC News in Spanish.

Eventually, he learned to sleep on a pile of trash in the corner of the cell, said Abner, who does not want his full name or his face used out of fear he will be targeted for deportation….

In total Abner spent 11 days from late May to early June in the Yuma border station. He describes them as filled with hunger and thirst, extreme temperatures and fear of the guards manning the facility. They refused to give him food when he asked, mocked him if he asked what time it was, and, on one occasion, punched another boy in the stomach, Abner said.

Abner says the children were fed only twice a day.

The older boys in Abner’s cell learned to protect the younger children, whose cries would anger the guards.

“Sometimes, we would give one [hamburger] to the little ones. Because the little ones were the ones that wanted to eat more than others. At least, [the older kids could] stand the hunger a little more,” Abner said.

This is being done in our name, and the whole world is watching.

I haven’t yet said anything about Robert Mueller’s Congressional testimony tomorrow. I’m sure you’ve heard that what used to be called the Department of Justice but is now Donald Trump’s personal law firm is trying to put limits on what Mueller can say. Politico reports:

Justice Department officials have communicated to Robert Mueller that the department expects him to limit his congressional testimony this week to the public findings of his 448-page report, according to one current and one former U.S. official familiar with the preparations.

In extensive discussions since the former special counsel was subpoenaed on June 25 to testify, department officials have emphasized that they consider any evidence he gathered throughout the course of his investigation to be “presumptively privileged” and shielded from public disclosure.

Of course this is complete bullshit. Mueller is a private citizen now and doesn’t have to take orders from Bill Barr or Trump. Also from Politico: Nadler calls DOJ ‘incredibly arrogant’ for trying to limit Mueller’s testimony.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler on Tuesday blasted President Donald Trump’s Justice Department as “incredibly arrogant” for instructing Robert Mueller to limit the scope of his upcoming congressional testimony.

But the New York Democrat predicted that the Justice Department’s Monday directive would not affect Wednesday’s highly anticipated pair of hearings with the former special counsel.

“I don’t think it’s much of an impediment, simply because Bob Mueller had indicated repeatedly that he was going to do exactly that,” Nadler said on CNN. “I think it’s incredibly arrogant of the department to try to instruct him as to what to say. It’s a part of the ongoing cover-up by the administration to keep information away from the American people, but I think that it’s not going to have a real impact.”

Here are some articles on Muller’s long-anticipated testimony:

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: Here’s how Mueller’s testimony could damage Trump.

Carol Lee at NBC News: Among the questions for Mueller: Why wasn’t Donald Trump Jr. interviewed?

Neil Kaytal at The New York Times: With Three Simple Answers, Mueller Can Speak Volumes.

In June, Mimi Rocha wrote at NBC News Think: What Barr’s ongoing smear campaign against Robert Mueller is really about.

The Daily Beast: Can Mueller Cut Through Barr’s ‘Fog of Propaganda’?

What else is happening? What stories have you been following?


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

It appears that Cover-Up General Bill Barr has struck again. He apparently ordered the Southern District of New York to end their investigation of campaign finance violations by Michael Cohen and Individual 1 (AKA Donald Trump).

The Washington Post: Prosecutors have ‘concluded’ Michael Cohen campaign finance probe, judge says.

Federal prosecutors have concluded the campaign finance investigation centered on President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, or at least key aspects of it, a federal judge overseeing the case wrote Wednesday, suggesting prosecutors will not charge executives in the Trump Organization or any others who have been linked to the matter.

The good news is that Judge William H. Pauley ordered the public release of search warrants and other documents related to the case. Prosecutors asked Pauley to allow some redactions of the materials, but the judge said no dice. The materials should be available sometime this morning.

He [Pauley] wrote that the government disclosed in a secret filing Monday that it had “concluded the aspects of its investigation that justified the continued sealing of the portions of the Materials relating to Cohen’s campaign finance violations.” He rejected their request to file the materials with redactions to protect “third-party privacy interests,” because, by his telling, the case is over and the public deserves to see everything.

“The campaign finance violations discussed in the Materials are a matter of national importance,” Pauley wrote. “Now that the Government’s investigation into those violations has concluded, it is time that every American has an opportunity to scrutinize the Materials.”

So Barr has made sure that the Trump Organization will no longer be in danger of prosecution. Will the investigations into Trump’s inauguration be axed next?

Rachel Maddow talked about this last night.

Folks, this is getting scarier with every passing day. Trump now controls the Department of Justice and apparently can order investigations stopped or opened. Republicans control the Senate, so nothing the Democrats pass will even be considered there, including impeachment. The only protection we have left is the courts, and Trump and the GOP are working overtime to stock them with Trump judges.

Last night Trump held another Nazi/KKK rally in North Carolina, during which he attacked has latest target Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and encouraged the crowd as they screamed “send her back!”

And in case you thought Trump was ad libbing, here’s the proof that the attack was orchestrated.

From The Charlotte Observer editorial board: ’Send her back’: A dark reminder of who we are.

It happened in the first half of Wednesday’s speech. Donald Trump, our president, began to talk about Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democratic from Minnesota who was among the four women of color he had attacked Sunday in a racist tweet. Everyone knew Trump would speak about the women at some point to the Greenville, North Carolina crowd. Did we know what would come next?

“Send her back.”

The chant rose quickly from a handful of voices to a chorus of bigotry. It was a chilling moment. It was “lock her up” in a white hood. It was despicable.

It could have happened at any Donald Trump rally. It might have happened in any state, north or south. But it happened in Greenville, in our state, and it was one of North Carolina’s darkest moments.

“Send her back.”

Or perhaps not. Maybe the chant will be absorbed in the vortex that is Donald Trump. In a presidency of so many shameful moments, of so many new lows, the singularly awful ones tend to lose their significance. It’s possible that North Carolina might be forgotten when the chant inevitably spreads to the next rally. But North Carolina shouldn’t forget.

The Associated Press: Trump leans on issue of race in bid for a 2nd term in 2020.

President Donald Trump has placed racial animus at the center of his reelection campaign, and even some of his critics believe it could deliver him a second term.

Every successful modern presidential campaign has been built on the notion of addition, winning over voters beyond core supporters. But Trump has chosen division on the belief that the polarized country he leads will simply choose sides over issues like race.

He intensified his attacks on Wednesday, blasting four young congresswomen of color during a rally in Greenville, North Carolina . The crowd responded by chanting, “Send her back!” echoing Trump’s weekend tweet in which he said the lawmakers, all American citizens, should “go back” to the countries from which they came.

“I do think I am winning the political fight,” Trump declared at the White House. “I think I am winning it by a lot.”

Not since George Wallace’s campaign in 1968 has a presidential candidate — and certainly not an incumbent president — put racial polarization at the center of his call to voters. Though Trump’s comments generated outrage and even a resolution of condemnation in the House, the president and his campaign believe the strategy carries far more benefits than risks.

The Irish Times: Fintan O’Toole: Trial runs for fascism are in full flow.

To grasp what is going on in the world right now, we need to reflect on two things. One is that we are in a phase of trial runs. The other is that what is being trialled is fascism – a word that should be used carefully but not shirked when it is so clearly on the horizon. Forget “post-fascist” – what we are living with is pre-fascism.

It is easy to dismiss Donald Trump as an ignoramus, not least because he is. But he has an acute understanding of one thing: test marketing. He created himself in the gossip pages of the New York tabloids, where celebrity is manufactured by planting outrageous stories that you can later confirm or deny depending on how they go down. And he recreated himself in reality TV where the storylines can be adjusted according to the ratings. Put something out there, pull it back, adjust, go again.

Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy. It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility. You have to do trial runs that, if they are done well, serve two purposes. They get people used to something they may initially recoil from; and they allow you to refine and calibrate. This is what is happening now and we would be fools not to see it.

One of the basic tools of fascism is the rigging of elections – we’ve seen that trialled in the election of Trump, in the Brexit referendum and (less successfully) in the French presidential elections. Another is the generation of tribal identities, the division of society into mutually exclusive polarities. Fascism does not need a majority – it typically comes to power with about 40 per cent support and then uses control and intimidation to consolidate that power. So it doesn’t matter if most people hate you, as long as your 40 per cent is fanatically committed. That’s been tested out too. And fascism of course needs a propaganda machine so effective that it creates for its followers a universe of “alternative facts” impervious to unwanted realities. Again, the testing for this is very far advanced.

Read the rest at the link above.

Last night Trump also celebrated a meaningless vote in the house about impeachment. Politico suggests that he might actually think the vote has ended the threat.

IT BARELY TOOK THE PRESIDENT ANY TIME before he said this Wednesday evening at his campaign rally in Greenville, N.C.: “I just heard that the United States House of Representatives has overwhelmingly voted to kill the most ridiculous project I’ve ever been involved in: the resolution — how stupid is that — on impeachment. I want to thank those Democrats because many of them voted for us, the vote was a totally lopsided 332-95-1.” … Upon arriving in North Carolina, President Donald Trump said the same thing: “We have just received an overwhelming vote against impeachment. And that’s the end of it. Let the Democrats now go back to work….

a few smart, seasoned people in the White House wondered to us Wednesday night if TRUMP actually believes this vote ended impeachment. Of course, it didn’t. This was a procedural vote that means nothing in the grand scheme of things. There are still nearly 90 Democrats who are now on record supporting an impeachment inquiry, and ROBERT MUELLER is coming to the Hill next week. There are Democrats who believe the impeachment caucus will swell as soon as he opens his mouth.

At Bloomberg, Jonathan Bernstein writes: That Strange Impeachment Vote? It May Be a Big Deal.

Inflaming the base: July 16, 2019

Representative Al Green, a Democrat from Texas, has regularly introduced articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Usually, when a regular bill or resolution has been introduced, it’s then referred to committee. If the majority party doesn’t want to consider the bill, it will die with no further action. Under House rules, however, any member can force an impeachment resolution onto the floor as pending business. That’s what Green did Wednesday.

This maneuver doesn’t mean that impeachment gets a final vote, or even debate. What it does get is a “motion to table,” which means that lawmakers can vote to either keep the resolution as pending business or kill it off. When Green did this in 2017, 58 Democrats voted to keep the impeachment measure alive. In 2018, 66 did so. This time, it was up to 95.

Of course, there are more Democrats in the current Congress than in the previous one. And we can’t assume that all the votes to table were necessarily votes against impeachment (pro-impeachment independent Justin Amash voted to table, for instance). Some legislators may have objected to bringing the resolution straight to the floor on procedural grounds, or thought that Green’s articles were poorly drafted. Still, the vote offers a decent proxy for where impeachment sentiment stands in the House: It divides Democrats and unites Republicans in opposition. For now.

What I found interesting was that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has said she opposes impeachment, apparently didn’t whip the vote. If that’s the case, what does it say about her real position? One interpretation is that she simply wanted to mollify pro-impeachment Democrats by giving them an easy opportunity to express their views. Another is that Pelosi isn’t as opposed to impeachment as she has let on, and was using this vote to gauge sentiment within the caucus – or even to demonstrate that support for ousting the president is growing.

(Emphasis added.)

I’ll end with this breaking news from The Miami Herald: Judge keeps Jeffrey Epstein in N.Y. jail as prosecutors build on sex trafficking case.

Wealthy sex offender Jeffrey Epstein will have to wait out a sex trafficking trial from a jail cell after a federal judge in New York ruled Thursday against his request for release on bail.

Epstein, 66, had offered to put up any collateral the judge wished from his self-estimated $559 million fortune. He said he would live in isolation in his Manhattan mansion, and pay for private security to ensure he remains inside and that no one enters unless authorized by the courts.

But with prosecutors warning that Epstein could easily flee or attempt to interfere with their witnesses, Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Berman has ordered that Epstein remain at the Manhattan Correctional Institute as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York seeks his conviction on child sex trafficking and conspiracy charges. Berman, according to reporters covering the hearing in New York, cited concerns that Epstein is a “danger” to others.

Berman’s ruling is a major victory for Epstein’s accusers, who have grown by the dozens since he was first investigated on trafficking allegations in South Florida more than a dozen years ago. The wealthy financier was first arrested in Palm Beach County in the mid-2000s after police began to suspect that he was abusing underage girls.

I’ll post anything I find about the release of Cohen materials from SDNY. What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: Angry Women Unite!

Jean Léon Gérôme, Truth Coming Out of Her Well to Shame Mankind, 1896

Good Morning!!

For months now, I’ve been feeling depressed and discouraged by the damage Trump is doing to our politics and our country. This morning I woke up and realized what I really am is angry, enraged, and pissed off! This has to end. Angry women must rise up and take back our country from the racist white supremacist in the White House, his GOP enablers, and his Russian troll army, and the white male-controlled media that is too fearful to call out his lies and racism.

Two angry women fighting back with intellect and direct action:

An angry woman in Montana stood up to on-line racist trolls and won. Buzzfeed News: A Judge Ruled A Neo-Nazi Blogger Should Pay $14 Million To A Woman Targeted In A Racist “Troll Storm.”

A federal judge ruled more than $14 million should be awarded to a woman who was barraged with anti-Semitic and threatening messages online after a neo-Nazi blogger instructed his followers to target her and her family with a “troll storm.”

The ruling was handed down Monday against Andrew Anglin, a white supremacist and publisher of the website The Daily Stormer.

In his decision, judge Jeremiah Lynch found that Anglin “acted with actual malice” when he told followers: “Let’s Hit Em Up. Are y’all ready for an old fashioned Troll Storm? Because AYO – it’s time, fam.”

Elisabetta Sirani, Timoclea Killing Her Rapist, 1659

What followed were a series of racist and sometimes threatening messages to Montana real estate agent Tanya Gersh, her co-workers, and her family, including her 12-year-old son.

The recommended ruling against Anglin included more than $200,000 for lost earnings and medical expenses incurred by Gersh, $821,000 for future lost earnings, and $3 million for past and future pain and suffering.

The bulk of the judgment, however, was the state maximum of $10 million in punitive damages against the white supremacist for what the judge called “particularly egregious and reprehensible” behavior and to “punish Anglin and deter him from engaging in such conduct in the future.”

I’m so angry today, because we have been battered by days of racist tweets and racist language spewed by the monster who is occupying the people’s White House. He is not my president and I will never call him that. I so agree with what Rep. Ayanna Pressley said about him:

“I never use the word you used — president — to describe him,” she said. “I refer to him as ‘the occupant.’ He simply occupies the space. He embodies zero of the qualities and the principles, the responsibility, the grace, the integrity, the compassion, of someone who would truly embody that office. It’s just another day in the world under this administration.”

At The Atlantic, Adam Serwer addresses Trump’s racism: Trump Tells America What Kind of Nationalist He Is.

On Sunday morning, the president told four members of Congress to “go back” to the countries “from which they came.” The remark, a racist taunt with a historic pedigree, inspired a flurry of fact-checking from mainstream journalists who were quick to note that Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar are American citizens, and that only Omar was born abroad, in Somalia. It was a rather remarkable exercise in missing the point.

Angry Bee Girl, Karin Bolstad

When Trump told these women to “go back,” he was not making a factual claim about where they were born. He was stating his ideological belief that American citizenship is fundamentally racial, that only white people can truly be citizens, and that people of color, immigrants in particular, are only conditionally American. This is a cornerstone of white nationalism, and one of the president’s few closely held ideological beliefs. It is a moral conviction, not a statement of fact. If these women could all trace their family line back to 1776, it would not make them more American than Trump, a descendant of German immigrants whose ancestors arrived relatively recently, because he is white and they are not.

After telling minority members of Congress to go back to where they “came from,” Trump today accused the women of “foul language & racist hatred.” White nationalists in the United States have always asserted that they are, in fact, the true victims of racial hatred, even as they’ve demanded the exclusion of nonwhites from the polity. When the Confederacy was shattered, its partisans launched a propaganda campaign rewriting the origin of their rebellion as the defense of individual freedom rather than property in man. The Redeemers who overthrew Reconstruction with terrorism and violence portrayed themselves as the victims of Negro tyranny, and as the historian Jonathan Sokol has written, when de jure segregation unraveled in the South in the 1960s, white southerners “began to picture the American government as the fascist, and the white southerner as the victim.”

Read the rest at The Atlantic.

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Beheading Holofernes (ca. 1620)

As a reminder, here is The New York Times’ recently updated compilation of Trump’s long racist history: Donald Trump’s Racism: The Definitive List, Updated, by David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick.

More reads on Trump’s racism:

George Conway at The Washington Post: Trump is a racist president.

David Remnick at The New Yorker: A Racist in the White House.

Michael Luo at The New Yorker: Trump’s Racist Tweets, and the Question of Who Belongs in America.

Paul Krugman at The New York Times: Racism Comes Out of the Closet. The dog whistle days are apparently over.

 

Trump’s racism enrages me, but you know what makes me just as angry? Rape culture. And Trump in the White House is a visible symbol of America’s misogynist history.

Barbara Bradley Haggerty at The Atlantic: An Epidemic of Disbelief. What new research reveals about sexual predators, and why police fail to catch them.

Robert Spada walked into the decrepit warehouse in Detroit and surveyed the chaos: Thousands of cardboard boxes and large plastic bags were piled haphazardly throughout the cavernous space. The air inside was hot and musty. Spada, an assistant prosecutor, saw that some of the windows were open, others broken, exposing the room to the summer heat. Above the boxes, birds glided in slow, swooping circles.

It was August 17, 2009, and this brick fortress of a building housed evidence that had been collected by the Detroit Police Department. Spada’s visit had been prompted by a question: Why were police sometimes unable to locate crucial evidence? The answer lay in the disarray before him.

As Spada wandered through the warehouse, he made another discovery, one that would help uncover a decades-long scandal, not just in Detroit but across the country. He noticed rows of steel shelving lined with white cardboard boxes, 10 inches tall and a foot wide, stacked six feet high. What are those? he asked a Detroit police officer who was accompanying him. Rape kits, the officer said.

Collage by Yasmin Diaz

“I’m assuming they’ve been tested?” Spada said.

“Oh, they’ve all been tested.”

Spada pulled out a box and peered inside. The containers were still sealed, indicating that the evidence had never been sent to a lab. He opened four more boxes: the same.

“I tried to do a quick calculation,” he later told me. “I came up with approximately 10,000.”

Spada’s estimate was conservative. Eventually 11,341 untested rape kits were found, some dating back more than 30 years—each one a hermetically sealed testament to the most terrifying minutes of a woman’s life, each one holding evidence that had been swabbed or plucked from the most private parts of her body. And in all likelihood, some microscopic part of her assailant—his DNA, his identity—sat in that kit as well.

Or kits.

That’s thousands of rapists whose DNA was on file, yet police never even tried to catch them. Many, went on to rape more women. Why? Because police still don’t believe women. Please go read this important article.

An angry woman academic and author speaks up at The Lily (h/t Delphyne): A female historian wrote a book. Two male historians went on NPR to talk about it. They never mentioned her name. It’s Sarah Milov.

Sarah Milov was sitting at her kitchen table, nursing her baby, when she saw the tweet.

“It took substantial government support to create Americans’ dependency on tobacco,” wroteNathan Daniel Beau Connolly, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University. “@edward_l_ayres and I talk with @jeremyhobson about the regulation of tobacco on this week’s @hereandnow.” Connolly ended the tweet with a “shout out” to Milov, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia whose forthcoming book, “The Cigarette: A Political History,” provided virtually all the material for the segment, which aired on Thursday.

Unfortunately, “Here & Now” — a radio show co-produced by NPR and WBUR in Boston, which is syndicated to approximately 5 million listeners — did not grant Milov the same courtesy. The three men on the segment, two historians and an NPR host, never mentioned Milov’s name or the name of her book.

“Every single word they said was from my book,” said Milov in an interview with The Lily. While the historians did not quote directly from “The Cigarette,” she said, every cited fact was taken from its pages. “Then I got to the end of a nearly 10-minute segment and did not hear myself credited at all.”

Read the rest at the link.

 

I’m so angry today. I know this post doesn’t make much sense, but it reflects my current state of mind. What’s going on with you today, Sky Dancers?


Thursday Reads: Trump’s “Social Media Summit” and Jeffrey Epstein Updates

“Hello gryphon, you are half-bird and so big,” by Erin Kelso

Good Afternoon!!

The illustrations in this post are by fantasy artist Erin Kelso, AKA bluefooted.

Jeffrey Epstein is still all over the news, although Trump is trying to distract the media by inviting a bunch of Nazis and right wing conspiracy theorists to visit the White House today  for a “social media summit” and sending out deranged tweets, in one of which he claimed to be “so great looking and smart, a true Stable Genius!” followed by the suggestion that he might be in office for 14 more years.

Trump’s “social media” summit

The Washington Post: ‘We will not let them get away with it’: Trump threatens social media ahead of White House summit.

President Trump plans to gather Republican lawmakers, campaign strategists and online provocateurs for a “social media summit” at the White House on Thursday, rallying his political allies and escalating his attacks on Facebook, Google and Twitter ahead of the 2020 election.

Harpy, by Erin Kelso

For Trump, the conference represents his highest profile broadside against Silicon Valley after months of accusing tech companies of censoring conservative users and websites. Facebook, Google and Twitter each has denied the president’s allegations of political bias, though none of them has been invited to the White House for Trump’s summit.

Hours before the event, Trump tweeted that the focus of the conversation “will be the tremendous dishonesty, bias, discrimination and suppression practiced by certain companies,” though he didn’t mention any by name. “We will not let them get away with it much longer,” he added.

Trump has assailed Facebook, Google and Twitter for months, even accusing them of trying to rig the election. In March, for example, he said the companies had engaged in “collusion” and work in opposition to a “certain group of people that happen to be in power, that happen to have won the election.”

At times, though, Trump’s attacks have come in response to efforts by Facebook, Google and Twitter to remove hate speech, threats of violence and other troubling content from their platforms.

Because Trump just loves hate speech.

Vox’s Recode reveals some of the nuts who will be at Trump’s “summit.”

…the gathering in Washington this week will bring together conservative media outlets and Donald Trump supporters who accuse Big Tech of anti-conservative bias despite a lack of evidence supporting their claims.

Canyon Maker, by Erin Kelso

Who will actually be there: The leaders of several conservative groups, like Turning Point USA, YourVoice Inc, right-wing YouTube channel Prager University, conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, and a right-wing meme maker known as Carpe Donktum have all confirmed they are attending Thursday’s meeting.

What’s it’s really about: Trump has suggested the government might sue social media companies over accusations of political bias, but he hasn’t taken concrete action so far. In May, Recode reported on a tool the White House launched for people to flag claims of social media censorship — but the tool is essentially a ploy to gather voter data. According to the Journal, today’s summit “is a way to rally Trump’s base” and will offer a “preview of a likely theme in Mr. Trump’s reelection campaign.” [Ryan Tracy / The Wall Street Journal]

More information on the attendees from CNN:

The White House has repeatedly declined to release a list people it expects to attend, but some of the recipients have turned to social media to boast about being invited.

By ErinKelso

Among them are Bill Mitchell, a radio host who has promoted the extremist QAnon conspiracy theory on Twitter; Carpe Donktum, an anonymous troll who won a contest put on by the fringe media organization InfoWars for an anti-media meme; and Ali Alexander, an activist who attempted to smear Sen. Kamala Harris by saying she is not an “American black” following the first Democratic presidential debates.

Other eyebrow raising attendees include James O’Keefe, the guerrilla journalist whose group Project Veritas tried to trick reporters at the Washington Post by planting a source who told the paper that she had been impregnated as a teenager by failed Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore; Charlie Kirk, the founder of the right-wing student group Turning Point USA who sometimes posts misleading information on social media; and Benny Johnson, the journalist-turned-activist who was fired for plagiarism by BuzzFeed and demoted at the Independent Journal Review for violating company standards.

From Vice: Trump Invites Fringe Social Media Company Popular With Nazis to the White House.

[Today] President Donald Trump is meeting with a series of right wing figures at the White House to discuss social media issues. But Facebook and Twitter won’t be there. In fact, the only social media network that has publicly said it’s attending is Minds—billed as the crypto “anti-Facebook” and once home to several neo-Nazi extremist groups.

Pulp, a public relations firm that counts Minds among its client list, sent Motherboard a photo of the invitation the fringe social media site received to the White House for the summit.

By Erin Kelso

“Minds.com is the only social media network invited to the White House’s social media summit!” wrote the Pulp representative in an email to Motherboard. Facebook and Twitter, social media companies with an astronomically larger number of users than Minds, were excluded from the summit.

A previous Motherboard investigation found that miliant neo-Nazi groups connected to Atomwaffen Division—a violent American hate group connected to several murders—was using Minds as a platform for recruiting and spreading propaganda. Minds eventually banned the accounts when Motherboard showed them to the platform, but the company’s lax content moderation allowed them to proliferate unchecked for months.

One more from The Daily Beast: Trump’s Social Media Summit Mortifies White House, Enrages Far-Right Allies.

Donald Trump has invited personalities from across the right-wing internet to the White House on Thursday for a “Social Media Summit,” but the event is causing his administration headaches even before it begins.

So far, the summit has stirred up resentments among pro-Trump personalities who were never invited to the party, and one invitee has been disinvited over an anti-Semitic cartoon—raising questions for the White House about why he was invited in the first place….

The Devil, by Erin Kelso

Notably, the group so far doesn’t appear to include anyone who has actually been banned from major social platforms, even though those bans have played a significant role in driving accusations on the right that the social giants are biased. Pro-Trump figures like anti-Muslim activist Laura Loomer, InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and Proud Boys men’s group founder Gavin McInnes, for example, don’t appear to have been invited.

That fact hasn’t been lost on fringe Trump supporters. In a livestream from Washington, D.C., InfoWars reporter and Jones lieutenant Owen Shroyer raged that no one from InfoWars was invited to the event, while people who hadn’t been banned were.

Shroyer declared that the event was an “abortion of truth” and compared the invitees to dogs getting a bone and a pat on the head.

Read much more at the link.

Jeffrey Epstein News

Last night The New York Times published a very interesting story on Epstein’s financial history: Jeffrey Epstein’s Fortune May Be More Illusion Than Fact.

Mr. Epstein is routinely described as a billionaire and brilliant financier, and he rubbed elbows with the powerful, including former and future presidents. Even after his 2008 guilty plea in a prostitution case in Florida, he promoted himself as a financial wizard who used arcane mathematical models, and he often dropped the names of Nobel Prize-winning friends. He told potential clients that they had to invest a minimum of $1 billion. At his peak in the early 2000s, a magazine profile said he employed 150 people, some working out of the historic Villard Houses on Madison Avenue.

Much of that appears to be an illusion, and there is little evidence that Mr. Epstein is a billionaire.

Wicked and the Unicorn, by Erin Kelso

Mr. Epstein’s wealth may have depended less on his math acumen than his connections to two men — Steven J. Hoffenberg, a onetime owner of The New York Post and a notorious fraudster later convicted of running a $460 million Ponzi scheme, and Leslie H. Wexner, the billionaire founder of retail chains including The Limited and the chief executive of the company that owns Victoria’s Secret.

Mr. Hoffenberg was Mr. Epstein’s partner in two ill-fated takeover bids in the 1980s, including one of Pan American World Airways, and would later claim that Mr. Epstein had been part of the scheme that landed him in jail — although Mr. Epstein was never charged. With Mr. Wexner, Mr. Epstein formed a financial and personal bond that baffled longtime associates of the wealthy retail magnate, who was his only publicly disclosed investor.

You’ll need to read the whole thing, but one fascinating revelation is that Epstein was aided by the same private section of Deutsche Bank that lent millions to Donald Trump.

In recent years, Mr. Epstein was a client of Deutsche Bank’s private-banking division, which caters to ultrawealthy individuals and families. The bank provided Mr. Epstein with loans and wealth-management accounts, as well as trading services through its investment banking arm, according to two people familiar with the relationship. At one point, compliance officers at Deutsche Bank raised concerns about transactions by Mr. Epstein’s company, because he posed reputational risk to the bank, the people said.

Deutsche Bank managers overruled their concerns, the people said. They noted that there was nothing illegal about the transactions and that Mr. Epstein was a lucrative client.

Earlier this year, the bank ended its relationship with Mr. Epstein.

Queen Titania, by Erin Kelso

AP: Whispers, suspicion about Epstein on Caribbean island.

Ask about Jeffrey Epstein on St. Thomas and rooms go quiet. Some people leave. Those who share stories speak in barely audible tones.

The 66-year-old billionaire bought Little St. James Island off this U.S. Caribbean territory more than two decades ago and began to transform it — clearing the native vegetation, ringing the property with towering palm trees and planting two massive U.S. flags on either end. When guides took scuba divers to spots near the island, security guards would walk to the water’s edge.

It was off-putting to residents of St. Thomas — a lush tropical island east of Puerto Rico with winding roads through mountains dotted with dainty Danish colonial-era homes. Then, when Epstein pleaded guilty in a 2008 to soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution, his need for privacy began to appear more sinister.

“Everybody called it ‘Pedophile Island,’” said Kevin Goodrich, who is from St. Thomas and operates boat charters. “It’s our dark corner.”

Many people who worked for Epstein told The Associated Press this week that they had signed long non-disclosure agreements, and refused to talk. One former employee who declined to be identified said Epstein once had five boats, including a large ferry in which he transported up to 200 workers from St. Thomas to his island every day for construction work.

Click on the link to read more details.

The Bitter End, by Erin Kelso

Joe Pompeo at Vanity Fair: “He Was Living In Peace, Like Dr. Mengele In Paraguay”: Manhattan Media Remember Jeffrey Epstein, The Monster Hiding In Plain Sight.

In late 2009, as civil complaints alleging Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of underage girls were mounting, George Rush, the long-running Daily News gossip columnist, was preparing a story on one of the latest Jane Doe lawsuits filed against the billionaire financier. The legal documents contained allegations that hadn’t yet been reported, and Rush was keen on nudging them into the public domain. He drew up a list of questions and sent them to Howard Rubenstein, who was Epstein’s publicist at the time. Rush’s reporting resulted in a call from Epstein himself to Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman, who had been a business partner of Epstein’s a few years earlier. The enigmatic and press-shy tycoon was offering Zuckerman something rare: an interview for the Daily News. But when Epstein got on the phone with Rush, Epstein said he could only speak off the record, on the advice of his lawyers. The whole 22-minute conversation sounded to Rush like a bunch of spin.

“It was just kind of this self-serving rationale for how he had been tormented by the lawyers for these girls, whom he characterized as these preexisting prostitutes and strippers who’d already been indoctrinated into the sex world,” Rush told me, describing the interview only in general terms because, even 10 years later, it’s still off the record. “You got the sense that he could adopt many masks. He played up his working-class roots on Coney Island, and how he understood that this was a good story that sold newspapers, and how everybody hates a rich guy. He basically said, I get why this is a good story for you, but I think a better story would be how these con artist lawyers are abusing the legal system.”

Rush said his Epstein chat was “almost useless,” though it “did give me a window into him. He briefly acknowledged getting himself into this mess. But he showed little remorse and no pity for his victims. He was mostly concerned with keeping Ghislaine Maxwell, his alleged henchwoman, out of the story.”

This is a long but interesting story, but check it out. Along the way, Epstein’s behavior has been enabled by so many rich and powerful allies.

Two more:

The New York Times: Cyrus Vance’s Office Sought Reduced Sex-Offender Status for Epstein.

The New York Post: NYPD let convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein skip judge-ordered check-ins.

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: Jeffrey Epstein, Trump, and the Politicized DOJ

Summertime, by Mary Cassatt, 1894

Good Morning!!

The news is full of Jeffrey Epstein stories; I can only hope that this time his victims will finally get justice. Bill Barr has recused himself from the case, but will that keep Trump and the Justice Department he now controls from helping his old pal Epstein?

Trump Has Politicized the DOJ

Chris Smith at Vanity Fair: “It Would Be Ridiculously Naive Not To Be Concerned”:   Trump has Politicized the DOJ. How Long Can the SDNY Hold Out?

Sally Yates tried to warn us. Way back in January 2017, at the end of the very first week of the Trump administration, the new president signed an executive order banning refugees and immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. It was a blatantly political act, following months of Trump campaign promises, and it immediately provoked lawsuits challenging the order as religious discrimination. Yates, the acting attorney general, refused to defend the legally indefensible and was summarily fired. “The president is attempting to dismantle the rule of law, destroy the time-honored independence of the Justice Department, and undermine the career men and women who are devoted to seeking justice day in and day out,” Yates wrote in a New York Times op-ed published in July 2017.

Summer’s Day, by Berthe Morisot

Two Julys later, Trump’s politicization of the DOJ is gaining new momentum and depth. The president’s choice of William Barr as attorney general, and Barr’s entirely predictable attempts to undercut the Mueller report, has been the highest-profile, highest-stakes move to weaponize the department for partisan purposes. But two fresh episodes demonstrate Trump’s relentless push to subvert the DOJ, and how far-reaching the damage will be to the rule of law. First came Sarah Fabian, the senior attorney in the DOJ’s Office of Immigration Litigation, telling a California appeals court that it is “safe and sanitary” for jailed immigrant children to go without soap or toothbrushes and to sleep on concrete floors under bright lights. “I actually felt somewhat sorry for her,” a former federal prosecutor says. “You could hear how half-hearted she was in making the point. But there is no way she would have been making that argument at all without it being approved at the highest levels of DOJ….”

The second, ongoing case echoes the events that got Yates fired. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled against adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, after documents from a now deceased Republican consultant’s hard drives were exposed. The census citizenship question, Thomas Hofeller wrote in an analysis, “would clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats” and “advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.” The DOJ announced it would not be fighting the Supreme Court ruling; the Commerce Department announced it would begin printing the census forms without the question in question.

Trump didn’t care. “We are absolutely moving forward,” he declared on Twitter. Which was news to DOJ lawyers, who found themselves fumbling during an emergency conference call with a Maryland district court judge….

Summer Afternoon in Rockport, by Carl Peters

After a few more days of confusion, the DOJ said on Friday it would demur from pursuing the case, at least until the Commerce Department “adopts a new rationale for including the citizenship question.” That new spin should arrive very soon. Over the weekend Trump and Barr replaced the DOJ legal team handling the case. Whether the prior group of career lawyers balked at returning to the Supreme Court with a new, possibly untenable argument or whether Barr simply wants fresh minds on the case, the shift was all but unprecedented, and is yet another indication that Trump sees the DOJ as a political tool.

Will Trump find a way to force the DOJ to help Epstein? I think he’s likely to try. Smith concludes:

…it’s hard to imagine Trump won’t try to intercede if the famously independent SDNY—currently back in the headlines for charging billionaire Jeffrey Epstein with sex trafficking—moves to indict one or more of the president’s high-ranking associates. (Epstein has pleaded not guilty.) “The fear is that Trump doesn’t even need to say it out loud anymore, because Barr is so protective of him,” Rocah says. “It would be ridiculously naïve not to be concerned.”

Also recommended from Zoe Tillman at Buzzfeed News: Trump Is Bringing In New Lawyers On The Citizenship Question Case And No One Knows What’s Happening.

Epstein stories to check out

Ken White provides a good backgrounder on the case at The Atlantic: Jeffrey Epstein Is Out of Luck.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, famously aggressive in pursuing high-profile prosecutions, charged Epstein last week with child sex trafficking in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1591. These new charges represent the Department of Justice’s attempt to redeem a reputation soiled by the extremely questionable plea deal it gave Epstein in 2008.

Summer Landscape, by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1875

In 2006 and 2007, Epstein— once a reliable companion of the well-connected — faced extensive, detailed allegations that he paid multiple minors for sexual contact and for their services in procuring other minors. Most people, hammered with that kind of evidence, would spend the rest of their lives in prison. But Epstein could afford the lavish attention of a defense team staffed by legal luminaries like Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth Starr. Most of us hope an attorney will defend us competently at trial, but the super-rich can afford to go on the offense. Epstein’s lawyers hounded the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, which was considering federal charges based on reports that Epstein procured underaged girls across state lines. Former U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta – now President Trump’s Secretary of Labor – characterized it as a “year-long assault on the prosecution and prosecutors,” and complained that Epstein’s team investigated prosecutors and their families “looking for personal peccadilloes that may provide a basis for disqualification.”

The strategy worked. Epstein’s team secured the deal of the millennium, one utterly unlike anything I’ve seen in 25 years of practicing federal criminal law. Epstein agreed to plead guilty to state charges, register as a sex offender, and spend 13 months in county jail, during which time he was allowed to spend 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, out of the jail on “work release.” In exchange, the Southern District of Florida abandoned its criminal investigation of Epstein’s conduct, agreed not to prosecute him federally, and – incredibly— agreed not to prosecute anyone else who helped him procure underaged girls for sex. This is not normal; it is astounding.

Read the rest at the link.

Barbara McQuade at New York Magazine: The Jeffrey Epstein Case Shows What Sex Trafficking Really Looks Like.

Interior at Etretat, the 14th of July, by Henri Matisse, 1920

When jurors hear “sex trafficking,” they conjure up images of victims bound by chains, subjected to physical force and imprisonment. While some cases include those aggravating facts, more often, the victim instead chooses to stay with her assailant, who preys upon a vulnerability. Defendants recruit victims in a variety of ways and then force them to engage in sex acts with them or with paying customers. Jurors are sometimes persuaded that if the defendant was truly engaging in sex trafficking, the victim would have simply run away or called the police.

As a former federal prosecutor, I have seen cases of sex trafficking, and none of those cases involved victims in ropes or chains. More often, the cases involved runaways, undocumented immigrants, or victims of sexual abuse.

A high-profile case like Epstein’s provides a teachable moment for American jurors. The indictment notes that some of his victims returned to his home to perform sex acts for money, even after they knew full well what was in store for them. The indictment also notes that the victims were “for various reasons, particularly vulnerable to exploitation.” That is the secret sauce of sex trafficking….

Sex trafficking is particularly egregious when it involves children, as in Epstein’s case. Children by definition are unable to consent to sex. In Epstein’s case, girls were lured to his home for sex with promises of hundreds of dollars and the prospect of modeling careers — offers that can be head-spinning and irresistible for a young teen.

by

Summer day, Gloucester Harbor, by Alice Judson

One of the reasons that we prosecute crimes is to deter others from committing similar acts. By seeing criminals punished for wrongdoing, others learn from their example. Another potential benefit of the Epstein case is to educate the public that not all victims of sex trafficking are found in chains. Here is hoping that jurors will learn from this example.

Read the whole thing at The Intelligencer.

Vicky Ward (who researched and wrote an in-depth piece about Epstein for Vanity Fair in 2003) at The Daily Beast: Jeffrey Epstein’s Sick Story Played Out for Years in Plain Sight.

For almost two decades, for some nebulous reason, whether to do with ties to foreign intelligence, his billions of dollars, or his social connections, Epstein, whose alleged sexual sickness and horrific assaults on women without means or ability to protect themselves is well-known in his circle, remained untouchable.

As many people know, I spent many months on his trail in 2002 for Vanity Fair and discovered not only that he was not who he claimed to be professionally, but also that he had allegedly assaulted two young sisters, one of whom had been underage at the time. Very bravely, they were prepared to go on the record. They were afraid he’d use all his influence to discredit them—and their fear turned out to be legitimate.

As the article was being readied for publication, Epstein made a visit to the office of Vanity Fair’s then-editor, Graydon Carter, and suddenly the women and their allegations were removed from the article. “He’s sensitive about the young women,” Carter told me at the time. He also mentioned he’d finagled a photograph of Epstein in a swimsuit out of the encounter. And there was also some feeble excuse about the article “being stronger as a business story.” (Epstein had also leaned heavily on my ex-husband’s uncle, Conrad Black, to try to exert his influence on me, which was particularly unwelcome, given that Black happened to be my ex-husband’s boss at the time.)

Summer Evening Wheat Field at Sunset, by Vincent Van Gogh

But much worse was to come from Epstein’s army of willfully blind lobbyists. In 2007 and 2008, as the FBI prepared a 53-page indictment that would charge Epstein with sex crimes, Epstein’s powerful legal team played the influence card.

After one meeting with then-U.S. Attorney Acosta, where presumably “intelligence” was mentioned, the indictment was shelved and, instead, Epstein signed a non-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors, pleading guilty to one count of solicitation of prostitution and one count of procurement of minors for prostitution, which earned him a cushy 13 months in county jail, from where he was allowed to leave to work at his office and go for walks.

It’s worth reading the whole thing.

More helpful Epstein stories, links only

The New York Times: Seized Photos of Nude Girls Deepens Questions About Jeffrey Epstein’s 2008 Deal.

The New York Times: Inside Epstein’s $56 Million Mansion: Photos of Bill Clinton, Woody Allen and Saudi Crown Prince.

The Washington Post: Epstein indictment renews questions about earlier case handled by Trump Cabinet official.

Catherine Rampell at The Washington Post: Alex Acosta gave a pass to Epstein years ago. He’s still at it as labor secretary.

Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: Jeffrey Epstein Is the Ultimate Symbol of Plutocratic Rot.

Bloomberg: Mystery Around Jeffrey Epstein’s Fortune and How He Made It.

What else is happening? What stories have you been following?


Lazy Caturday Reads

The Marquis gave his hand to the princess, and followed the king, who went up first.” Illustrations by Harry Clarke. Published in The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault, Charles Perrault (1922).

Good Afternoon!!

The Fourth of July is coming up and Trump is busily working to ruin it for everyone but his ignorant deplorable base and his billionaire buddies.

The Washington Post: Trump plans ticketed-access area for VIPs, friends and family at July 4 celebration.

Plans by President Trump to reshape Washington’s Independence Day celebration now include an area in front of the Lincoln Memorial reserved for dignitaries, family and friends that will be accessible only through tickets distributed by the White House.

The VIP section will stretch roughly from the steps of the memorial to the midpoint of the reflecting pool, according to the U.S. Secret Service. It is in front of the spot from which Trump plans to address the nation as part of his rebranding of the traditional July 4 event into his own “Salute to America,” which includes moving the fireworks from the reflecting pool to two different sites, including West Potomac Park.

The revamped festivities will include additional fireworks, military bands and flyovers by Air Force One, the Blue Angels and aircraft from all branches of the military.

Where Trump plans to speak is not yet clear.

Kisa the Cat carries off Ingibjorg’s Feet from the giant’s cave, from Andrew Lang’s Brown Fairy Book, 1932

On Friday morning, bleachers had been set up on the plaza below the Lincoln Memorial, and workers were erecting other structures. Seats faced away from the memorial and toward the Washington Monument,making it unclear where exactly Trump plans to stand while giving his speech.

More problems:

Many people who have long-standing practices for how they get downtown, or where they position their boats for the best vantage points and ease of access, will need to make adjustments. Even travelers passing through the region’s skies will be affected, with all operations at Reagan National Airport suspended for up to an hour and 15 minutes on July 4, the FAA said late Friday….

The ongoing shifts to what had been established security and crowd-control protocols have left officials in the District and some federal agencies confused about logistics as basic as what Metro stops and roads might be open or closed, and for what period, and how many fireworks displays will launch….

In West Potomac Park, softball fields were fenced off Friday morning, a day earlier than had been announced, while 36 portable spotlights were parked along Ohio Drive. A crew from Garden State Fireworks was setting up its launch site near a baseball backstop.

Come July 4, the Arlington Memorial Bridge, a major thoroughfare that was open in the past on the holiday, will be closed for the day, cutting off people trying to drive into the District from Arlington National Cemetery and other nearby points. Transportation officials warned that the Smithsonian and Foggy Bottom Metro stops could experience extra crowding as a result.

Read the whole story. It’s going to be a clusterfuck.

Crookshanks and Scabbers from Harry Potter, by Stephen Andrade

Richard Nixon tried to pull something “special” on the Fourth of July, 1970, although it was supposedly “bipartisan.” From Timeline.com: On the 4th of July in 1970, the nonpartisan Honor America Day turned into a drugged-up protest.

Tensions all over America were high in the summer of 1970. The Nixon administration’s bombing of Cambodia and the continued war in Vietnam were seen by a vocal section of the population to be murderous disasters. Outraged students raised their voice, and in May, the National Guard killed four of them at Kent State and two others at Jackson State. It appeared to some as if the country doubled down on its sins, adding the blood of its own citizens to the mix.

A month later, a group of wealthy and prominent Americans assembled to do something about the national divide. Their mission was not to address the problems behind it, but to invigorate a broad and vague spirit of appreciation for the United States of America. They called it Honor America Day: a massive, entertainment-filled ceremony, to be held in Washington DC on the Fourth of July. For a day, Americans could swap their discontent for waving flags, live music, and old-fashioned pride….

And while the event was ostensibly apolitical, The New York Times noted that committee members almost unilaterally supported Nixon’s campaigns in Southeast Asia.

Naturally, there were protests.

Given the national and international situation, a counter protest was inevitable. And it was a doozy.

Perhaps the most inflammatory was a Fourth of July smoke-in on the National Mall by anti-war and pro-legalization protestors, slated to compete with the more wholesome Honor America Day activities. “Before this is over,” joked Bob Hope, “I may need some of that stuff myself.”

Green Cat with Lights, by Dr. Seuss

On the other side of the political spectrum, neo-Nazis and conservative groups also turned out to represent their causes.

Some 10,000 people attended the interfaith service led by Billy Graham on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at 10:30. But protesters appeared at the same time, with the audience cheering as security ejected those who broke past the line.

I wonder if there are protests planned for Trump’s idiotic celebration of himself. It will be interesting to see what happens, but I wouldn’t want to be there.

Colbert I. King at The Washington Post: Frederick Douglass would be outraged at Trump’s Fourth of July self-celebration.

“What, to the American slave,” Douglass demanded, “is your Fourth of July?”

Nearly 170 years later, Douglass’s bold declaration and haunting question resonate with new meaning.

President Trump has taken over Independence Day 2019, transforming the traditional celebration on the Mall of the nation’s founding into a salute to his egocentrism, staged with demonstrations of America’s military might, an Air Force One flyover and an address to the nation to be delivered by himself on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

The brave signers of the Declaration of Independence — flawed men but men who, as Douglass said, “staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country” — will take a back seat next week.

This Fourth of July is Donald Trump’s — not theirs, not the nation’s, not mine.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

More food for thought from CREW: How Trump’s 4th of July Hijacking Could Violate the Hatch Act.

LEAFY KITTIES, Remedios Varo

Is President Trump trying to hijack the Independence Day celebration on the National Mall by turning it into a taxpayer-funded campaign rally? If he does, the Trump administration will violate federal appropriations law and the Hatch Act. In that case, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale had better have the campaign’s checkbook handy and be ready to write plenty of zeros.

At a kick-off rally for his re-election campaign last week, Trump sounded a lot like he was laying the groundwork for politicizing America’s birthday party—

This election is not merely a verdict on the amazing progress we’ve made. It’s a verdict on the un-American conduct of those who tried to undermine our great democracy, and undermine you. And by the way, on July 4th, in Washington, D.C., come on down, we’re going have a big day. Bring your flags, bring those flags, bring those American flags, July 4th. We’re going to have hundreds of thousands of people. We’re going to celebrate America. Sounds good, right? July 4th. Celebrate America. This election is a verdict on whether we want to live in a country where the people who lose an election refuse to concede and spend the next two years trying to shred our Constitution and rip your country apart.

The very next day, Trump’s Interior Secretary, David Bernhardt, responded by issuing an announcement confirming that the July 4th event “will feature remarks by President Donald J. Trump.” [….]

If Trump is careful and has the self-discipline to talk only about government policies, the event may amount to little more than a garish display of nationalism….

But when has anyone ever accused Trump of being predictable or sounding like a dry policy wonk? It seems far more likely that he’ll talk about his reelection bid or fling schoolyard nicknames at his political rivals. That sort of bombast would be a whole lot more fun for Trump than having to deliver dull prepared remarks. And, hey, it’s a party after all. Right? The problem – as is so often the case for the Trump administration – is the rule of law.

The Cheshire Cat John Tenniel 1865

In other news, Kamala Harris was the breakout star of the first Democratic Debate and the Russian bots and Trump and his on-line army are attacking her.

The Daily Beast: Kamala Harris Is Surging and Birtherism Is Back. As Harris spoke about race and the history of busing,

she was attacked on Twitter by a conservative provocateur for not being an “American black.” It’s a play straight out of the racist birther playbook used against Barack Obama when he ran for president a decade earlier. This time, though, those kinds of allegations don’t have to circulate for years on obscure right-wing forums before they reach a mainstream audience. On Thursday night, spammers and even one of President Trump’s sons spread the attack to millions of people within hours….

“She is half Indian and half Jamaican,” [Ali] Alexander wrote. “I’m so sick of people robbing American Blacks (like myself) of our history. It’s disgusting. Now using it for debate time at #DemDebate2? These are my people not her people. Freaking disgusting.” [….]

More Twitter users copied and pasted Alexander’s message verbatim and tweeted it as their own, according to screenshots posted by writer Caroline Orr. Some of those accounts, like “@prebs_73,” have copy-pasted other popular right-wing tweets verbatim. Other accounts with right-wing references in their usernames and biographies piled on, accusing Harris of not being black.mi

“Ummmmm @KamalaHarris you are NOT BLACK. you are Indian and Jamaican,” wrote a Twitter user with a cross emoji, the word “CONSERVATIVE,” a red “X” emoji (a right-wing Twitter trope), and three stars (a QAnon symbol) in their username.

Read more about this at Buzzfeed News: A New Racist Campaign Against Kamala Harris Is Taking Shape.

The New York Times has an important article on the crisis in Trump’s concentration camps: The Treatment of Migrants Likely ‘Meets the Definition of a Mass Atrocity,’ by Kate Cronin-Furman.

The mice hold a meeting, Belling the Cat, Aesop’s Fables for Kids

A pediatrician who visited in June said the [detention] centers could be compared to “torture facilities.” Having studied mass atrocities for over a decade, I agree.

At least seven migrant children have died in United States custody since last year. The details reported by lawyers who visited a Customs and Border Protection facility in Clint, Tex., in June were shocking: children who had not bathed in weeks, toddlers without diapers, sick babies being cared for by other children. As a human rights lawyer and then as a political scientist, I have spoken to the victims of some of the worst things that human beings have ever done to each other, in places ranging from Cambodia to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Sri Lanka. What’s happening at the border doesn’t match the scale of these horrors, but if, as appears to be the case, these harsh conditions have been intentionally inflicted on children as part a broader plan to deter others from migrating, then it meets the definition of a mass atrocity: a deliberate, systematic attack on civilians. And like past atrocities, it is being committed by a complex organizational structure made up of people at all different levels of involvement.

Thinking of what’s happening in this way gives us a repertoire of tools with which to fight the abuses, beyond the usual exhortations to call our representatives and donate to border charities.

Those of us who want to stop what’s happening need to think about all the different individuals playing a role in the systematic mistreatment of migrant children and how we can get them to stop participating. We should focus most on those who have less of a personal commitment to the abusive policies that are being carried out.

A new take on Puss ‘n Boots by Ayano Imai

Cronin-Furman argues that the problem is that many of the people involved in what’s happening see themselves as just doing their jobs–or “following orders” as many people involved in the Nazi’s “final solution” did.

Testimony from trials and truth commissions has revealed that many atrocity perpetrators think of what they’re doing as they would think of any other day job. While the leaders who order atrocities may be acting out of strongly held ideological beliefs or political survival concerns, the so-called “foot soldiers” and the middle men and women are often just there for the paycheck.

This lack of personal investment means that these participants in atrocities can be much more susceptible to pressure than national leaders. Specifically, they are sensitive to social pressure, which has been shown to have played a huge role in atrocity commission and desistance in the HolocaustRwanda and elsewhere. The campaign to stop the abuses at the border should exploit this sensitivity and put social pressure on those involved in enforcing the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

Read the rest at the NYT.

So . . . what stories are you following today?

 


Tuesday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

As usual, there’s way too much important news to cover today. I long for the days when Obama was president and there weren’t scandals and outrages every single day including Saturdays and Sundays.

Overhead view of the shelter for migrant children in Clint, TX

After the public response to Trump’s concentration camps/torture chambers for children on border, NBC News reports: Almost 300 migrant children removed from Texas facility described as ‘appalling.’

Almost 300 migrant children have been removed from a border patrol facility in Texas after media reports of lawyers describing “appalling” and potentially dangerous conditions, Department of Homeland Security officials told NBC News….

The children who were removed were being held at a border station in Clint, Texas. Some were wearing dirty clothes covered in mucus or even urine, said Elora Mukherjee, the director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School. Teenage mothers wore clothing stained with breast milk. None of the children had access to soap or toothpaste, she said.

The children have been taken to a tent detention camp also in El Paso, Texas, where they will remain under the custody of Border Patrol until they can be placed with the Department of Health and Human Services, the DHS officials said. The Associated Press first reported on the conditions at the facility.

But will conditions be better in the tent camp? Who knows? Reporters aren’t allowed in to report on Trump’s concentration camps. The Washington Post: Migrant children are suffering at the border. But reporters are kept away from the story.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Clint, Texas is seen in this undated image from Google Maps.

News stories emerged last week about squalid conditions at a Border Patrol detention facility housing about 300 migrant children on the U.S.-Mexico border. The media accounts described the facility in Clint, Tex., near El Paso, that houses children separated from their parents by order of the Trump administration.

Apart from their appalling specifics, the stories were notable for one element: They were all based on secondhand accounts. Reporters were unable to see the facilities themselves or speak to any of the children. Instead, they relied on descriptions provided by lawyers and advocates who were granted access under a legal settlement with the Border Patrol.

The blackout on press access has left Americans largely in the dark about conditions in government facilities designed to handle migrants who have crossed the border. Photographs and TV images are both rare and often dated. Rarer still are interviews with federal agency managers and employees and with the children themselves.

Journalists, government officials and migrant advocates agree that permitting reporters to see the facilities firsthand would change public perceptions about the treatment of migrants. There’s disagreement, however, about how it would change.

“If journalists had access to the detention centers at the border where children are being held in filthy conditions, those centers would not exist,” said Elora Mukherjee, an attorney who interviewed children at the Texas facility and described them to reporters last week. “If videos were released there would be massive changes” because the public outcry would be enormous.

From left: Meagan O’Toole-Pitts, Ashley Cortez, Oliver Cortez, and his father, Mark Cortez, attempt to drop off diapers and toys for detained children at the immigration detention center in Clint. Courtesy of Armando Martinez Photography

The Boarder Patrol won’t even accept donations from people who want to help the children, according to The Texas Tribune.

Oh, and good old Melania chose yesterday to tweet about helping children. Raw Story: Melania Trump ripped for bragging about helping children while her husband runs concentration camps for kids. “Be best” like her husband the child abuser and rapist?

Two more important stories on this topic:

Damon Linker at The Week: Trump’s border policy: If cruelty isn’t the point, what is?

Dahlia Lithwick and Margo Schlanger at Slate: What You Need to Know About the Crisis at the Border.

Big media largely ignored or downplayed E. Jean Carroll’s rape allegation against Trump. Now multiple outlets are asking why it wasn’t treated as front page news.

Paul Waldman at The Washington Post: Have we become numb to Trump’s loathsomeness?

When we look back on June 2019, we’ll say that this was the time when a credible allegation of rape was made against the president of the United States, and he had already shown himself to be such a loathsome character that it was treated as a third-tier story, not worthy of much more than a passing mention here and there in the news.

After New York magazine published author and advice columnist E. Jean Carroll’s account last Friday of an encounter she says she had with Trump in a Bergdorf Goodman that ended with him raping her in a dressing room, many of our most important news outlets reacted with only minor interest. Most of the nation’s biggest newspapers — aside from The Post — left it off on their front page the next day. None of the five Sunday shows mentioned it at all.

There are many reasons to find Carroll’s allegation credible. She’s a fairly well-known public figure. Her description of what happened to her — him slamming her against a wall, mashing his face against hers, yanking down her tights, and penetrating her — accords not only with the allegations of multiple other women but Trump’s own words on that infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, in which he bragged that he can sexually assault any woman he pleases. “I just start kissing them, it’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

Yet Trump’s position on Carroll’s allegation is the same he has taken on all the others: She’s a liar. He doesn’t say it was a misunderstanding or it was consensual, just that she’s a liar.

A liar and somehow not the sort of woman he would choose to rape, according to Trump.

The New York Times: ‘She’s Not My Type’: Accused Again of Sexual Assault, Trump Resorts to Old Insult.

Mr. Trump said that E. Jean Carroll, who wrote for years for Elle magazine, was “lying” when she said that he threw her up against a wall and forced himself on her in the mid-1990s, and he insisted that he did not know her.

“I’ll say it with great respect,” he said in an interview with The Hill, a Capitol Hill news organization. “No. 1, she’s not my type. No. 2, it never happened. It never happened, O.K.?” [….]

In the Hill interview, Mr. Trump said Ms. Carroll was making up the story. “Totally lying. I don’t know anything about her,” he said. “I know nothing about this woman. I know nothing about her. She is — it’s just a terrible thing that people can make statements like that.”

Mr. Trump in the past has rejected other sexual assault accusations by asserting that the women who accused him of taking advantage of them were not attractive enough to engage in such behavior.

“Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you,” Trump told supporters at a campaign event in 2016 after a woman accused him of putting his hand up her skirt while on an airplane. “You don’t know. That would not be my first choice.” As the crowd laughed, he said, “Check out her Facebook, you’ll understand.”

Of course Carroll is very much his “type.” She was a blonde beauty queen and a cheerleader, for cripes sake.

Look at the photos. I’d say she fits the mold, wouldn’t you? Here’s another take on this story at The Atlantic: The Cruel Paradox at the Heart of E. Jean Carroll’s Allegation Against Trump.

Yesterday, the dotard in chief issued new sanctions against Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini, who has been dead for 20 years. Iran responded that the Trump administration is “afflicted with mental retardation.” CBS This Morning: Iran leaders lash out at White House over “idiotic” new sanctions.

Officials in Iran lashed out on Tuesday at the latest round of sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, casting doubt on any hope of an imminent diplomatic end to the standoff over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. President Hassan Rouhani called the new U.S. sanctions “outrageous and idiotic,” and suggested the Trump administration was “afflicted by mental retardation” for imposing them.

The country’s foreign ministry spokesman said the latest move by the U.S. brought a “permanent closure” to any hope of diplomacy between the two nations.

President Trump imposed the new sanctions on Monday. For the first time they target Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei directly, barring his access to the international financial system. The punitive measures — which add to a long list of financial sanctions already slapped on Tehran by Mr. Trump since he pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear deal with Iran last year — also target other officials.

Rouhani mocked Mr. Trump over the sanctions, saying: “You sanction the foreign minister simultaneously with a request for talks?”

CBS News White House correspondent Ben Tracy says the latest statements from Iran are further evidence that President Trump’s strategy, of forcing the Islamic Republic to change its behavior by strangling its economy, is not working.

Oh, and Trump is still thinking about cutting off military aid to Japan. Bloomberg: Trump Muses Privately About Ending Postwar Japan Defense Pact.

President Donald Trump has recently mused to confidants about withdrawing from a longstanding defense treaty with Japan, according to three people familiar with the matter, in his latest complaint about what he sees as unfair U.S. security pacts.

Trump regards the accord as too one-sided because it promises U.S. aid if Japan is ever attacked, but doesn’t oblige Japan’s military to come to America’s defense, the people said. The treaty, signed more than 60 years ago, forms the foundation of the alliance between the countries that emerged from World War II….

Exiting the pact would jeopardize a postwar alliance that has helped guarantee security in the Asia Pacific, laying the foundation for the region’s economic rise. Under the terms of its surrender in World War II, Japan agreed to a pacifist constitution in which it renounced the right to wage war….

Scrapping the treaty would risk ceding security of the Western Pacific to China and potentially spurring a fresh nuclear arms race, if Japan decided it needed to protect itself from nuclear-armed neighbors. It would also call into question the U.S.’s military commitments to Australia, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan and a host of other allies around the world.

This man is really really old.

Joe Biden is still leading in the polls as we approach the first Democratic primary debate on Wednesday and Thursday, so here are a couple of interesting pieces on Biden.

Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: Joe Biden Doesn’t Look So Electable in Person.

On Saturday, Joe Biden was one of 20 presidential candidates to speak at a Planned Parenthood forum in Columbia, S.C., held right next door to the state’s Democratic convention. It was just a couple of weeks after he’d reversed his longtime support for the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortion. One of the moderators asked him what he’d say to pro-choice voters who have concerns about his mixed record on the issue.

This was part of his answer: “The fact of the matter is that we’re in a situation where mortality rate for poor women and black women, here in this state, 26.5 percent of the, 24, 25.6 people, who of 100,000 who need, who end up dying as a consequence of birth, it’s absolutely absurd.” (He was referring to South Carolina’s maternal mortality rate, which is 26.5 maternal deaths per 100,000 births.)

Seeing Biden on the stump often feels like watching an actor who can’t quite remember his lines. Even if you don’t support him, it’s hard not to feel anxious on his behalf.

I had the chance to watch Biden campaign three times over the weekend, when almost the entire Democratic field descended on Columbia. On Friday he appeared at the famous fish fry held by Congressman Jim Clyburn. The next day he was at the Planned Parenthood event and at the state convention.

Biden speaks at James Clyburn’s fish fry.

His performance was unnerving. I don’t want Biden to be the nominee for ideological reasons, but polls show him far ahead, and if he’s going to be the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer against Donald Trump, I want him to be a strong one. He didn’t seem strong in South Carolina.

Donald Trump, of course, also speaks in gibberish, but with a bombastic unearned confidence; rather than flailing around for the right figure he makes one up. Biden, by contrast, was just shaky. And while there’s great affection for him on the ground, there’s little excitement. You can see why his campaign has been limiting his public events and why he’s been avoiding the press.

The Washington Post: Once the poorest senator, ‘Middle Class Joe’ Biden has reaped millions in income since leaving the vice presidency.

Biden points out on the presidential campaign trail that he was often the poorest member of the United States Senate, and for at least a decade has referred to himself as “Middle Class Joe.” But since leaving office he has enjoyed an explosion of wealth, making millions of dollars largely from book deals and speaking fees that ranged to as much as $200,000 per speech, public documents show.

As Biden traveled the country before announcing his presidential campaign this spring, his sponsors provided VIP hotel suites, town cars and professional drivers, chartered flights and travel expense reimbursements that for some of his appearances reached at least $10,000 per event, according to contracts obtained by The Post through public records requests.

The Washington Post found at least 65 instances in which Biden gave a speech or appeared at a book event; in at least 10 instances he did not take a fee, although in some of those cases he was reimbursed for travel expenses. Biden’s campaign said he has given less than 50 paid speeches, but declined to be more specific about exactly how many he delivered, or how much he earned in total.

I’d better wrap this up; this post is getting way too long. What stories are you following today?